Vietnam, Hoi An: Multicultural Harbor
On the following day we set off to Hoi An (Hội An . It was during the daylight and also it didn’t rain. The sun was pleasantly shining and warm. We reached the historical center by foot and were ready for some great sightseeing (even the one in the night had its atmosphere).
Hoi An‘s glory days were between the 16th and 19th centuries. Hoi An was an important international port. Merchants from all around Asia and also Europe, from Portugal and Italy especially. Many Japanese and Chinese settled here permanently. There are still visible traces of their presence in some districts they founded. Also, Christian missionaries, for instance Alexandre de Rhodes, a French Jesuit also came here. De Rhodes spread Christianity in Vietnam and transliterated Vietnamese scripture to Latin.
The port due to sediments in river’s mouth gradually became unsuitable for sea ships. Danang (Đà Nẵng), a city nearby took Hoi An’s role over. Hoi An, however, was spared of heavy fights storming across the country during the Indochina wars of the 20th century. In 1999, it became a UNESCO World Heritage site.
It was still quite quiet in the morning. Without hustle we observed architecture which combines different influences from Chinese to Portuguese. The most opulent houses belonged to merchants and their descendants still live in them. We even talked to one such a men who is a descendant to an important merchant family. The old men was sitting on his porch making an order to many banknotes tourists gave to him. We even spotted a Czech 50 crown banknote. After an enthusiastic discussion on the Czech Republic we walked through the rest of the house. Especially we loved traditional motifs carved into wood or preserved items of daily live of his ancestors.
Another important sights include the 16th century roofed Japanese bridge on which a pagoda stands. Then there are assembly and ceremonial halls built by Chinese merchants. Majority of them is built from wood. Chua Cau bridge (Chùa Cầu) is one of city’s symbols as it combines Japanese and Chinese districts. Apart from a Buddhist pagoda there are the so called patrons guardings each of its two ends. One of them is a dog the other a monkey. The bridge is a popular tourist attraction. Everyday painters try to capture it on canvas.
Small shops and stands add to city’s atmosphere. You can buy there all kind of delicacies, souvenirs like cloths, bowls and other things included.
It was just about time when we finished our Hoi An sightseeing as we managed to escape tourist crowds. They, fortunately, slept bit longer on that day so we missed them eventually. We continued on in our journey. Where to is the matter of the next week’s article.
GPS: (Chua Cau bridge) 15°52'37.6"N 108°19'33.7"E
Text: Hana Bašová
Photo: Hana Bašová, Wikimedia Commons: François Guerraz
When someone in Prague says “Sapa” everybody recalls the famous marketplace in Prague. However, once you dig into where the name originates you soon find the mysterious area of Sa Pa in Vietnam’s northwest (near the borderline with China).
In the region of Sa Pa, northwestern Vietnam, the best means of transport is a bike. You don’t have to worry about missing your bus, of taxi not coming, or that your taxi cab driver would be someone who drives illegally. Therefore, we rented us a bike in Sa Pa. It cost only a few crowns. Then we planned our trip.
I have always longed to see a large desert with sand dunes. However, neither in Europe nor in Southeast Asia (the places where I spend most of my time) is one. Once I first saw pictures of Mui Ne, Vietnam I knew for sure that I want to go there. Okay, it is not a desert per se but sand dunes there are huge.
The end of my stay in Vietnam was neigh. There was one more place to see, a must-see place. The Caodaistic temple. Caodaismus (Đạo Cao Đài) is a young, syncretic religion established by a bureaucrat from South Vietnam in the 1920s.
Da Nang (a city almost in the geographic center of Vietnam) is largely unknown. Which is unfortunate. An average tourist usually passes by there in a taxi on his way from the airport to his favorite Hoi An hotel…. I spent three weeks in Da Nang. And the city got on the list of my favorite places in Southeast Asia (right next to Chiang Mai). In Top Gear, Jeremy Clarkson called the old road to Hue as the “abandoned fragment of perfection.” I absolutely agree.
Omnipresent honking, grandmas pulling bikes with flowers, Vietnamese sitting on small chairs, food, bikes, wires, bikes, French cafes, bikes with food, bikes with chairs, bike transporting part of another bike… Welcome to Hanoi! It is a city crazy beyond believe. You either love it or you hate it eternally.
We imagined the visit to the lake as relaxing time after quite a busy day. The reality was seriously different from our expectations. I have remembered the first impression until today. With my daughter and son, we dodged through the local traffic and it was not really easy. The flood of motorcycles was not to stop. We naively thought that someone might slow down or even stop. Don't expect that. Just walk to the other end of the road. And be brave.
Nha Trang is practically the most famous tourist resort in Vietnam, not so much for some landmarks, this coastal city of Khanh Hoa province is famous for its seven kilometers long sandy beach with adjacent islands. The city of approximately 392,000 inhabitants and this number is growing steadily.
As much as I hate to travel by bus, I would repeat the ride from Nha Trang and Da Lat. The former is the city of two hundred thousand. It is the most popular spot to spend honeymoon at in Vietnam. It is situated at 1500 meters in the Central Highlands. You can enjoy a number of great views while on the road. And it gets even better on bike …
Upon we explore Hanoi a bit we planned to see other places which are must see in the capital. The first one was the Ho Chi Minh Museum (Lăng Chủ tịch Hồ Chí Minh).
Upon an hour of waiting for a visa I was free to explore the capital of the country I really looked forward to exploring. First of all, I somehow let a cab driver to make a 300 crown rip off. Sometimes things like this happen. But honestly – this happens in Prague as well. Aboard the airplane I could see streets where millions of bikes stream in all directions. And “down” here the traffic is even more crazy. If I compare Ho Chi Minh city to Bangkok, a city of comparable size, in the former there are much less traffic jams. One must add that there is no subway, or rail that would go above the ground. It seems that high taxes on car is working.
Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) is often regarded economic heart of Vietnam. It is not as hold as Hanoi (Hà Nội) but still it has some magic.
Our journey continued to Hue (Huế), the former capital of Vietnamese emperors situated in the central Vietnam.
Even though the title suggest some offensive connotations we were did not intend to disgrace royal tombs as if we were in an action movie. A rented bike, however, solved our problems. The tombs around Hue are scattered along vast area. Before relying on public transportation it is better to pay couple of crowns to rent a bike.
The last day was before us in Hue, the picturesque imperial city. In the early morning we hit the streets and just roamed around in the city. Indeed, we saw one of the most distinctive sights in the city - the Trường Tiền bridge across the Perfume River.
We reached Hanoi (Hà Nội in Vietnamese) by train, again. Friends had been waiting for us at the train station already. Hospitable as they were they took us on their bikes to their place. Founded in the 11th century, Hanoi’s original name was Thăng Long – Soaring Dragon. The legend says the emperor saw a dragon soaring at this place so he founded the city there.
Someone loves it. Someone swears to not to come again. There is nothing in between. I am with the first group. From the first day on in Saigon, a hectic city, and I turned into a side street. We are about to introduce you to a new series where we tell you about interesting places in the city and the country. First of all, let’s talk some important facts about the country.
Every time I have the feeling I know something more about something I come to realization which tells me the opposite. I spent one year of studying and travelling in China. Bit arrogantly I had felt Asia couldn’t surprise me much more. Fortunately, I hadn’t boarded a plane to the Czech Republic, instead I boarded a plane to Vietnam.
I was feeling like travelling in China when I was on my way to Hoi An – “there is going to be this yellow bus. It will take you there“.
Recently was thru internet voting selected the new seven natural wonders of the world. Most information on these remarkable localities in the Czech Internet dismissed several photographs, but we will in our “Do you know that” – serial will try to say something more about the places that you did not receive his reputation by accident.
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